By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — ‘Tis the season, so it would seem, for devilish dollies. First, someone in Hollywood had the bright idea of rebooting the odious “Child’s Play” series, setting maniacal Chucky back on the rampage.
And now, little more than a month later, moviegoers are presented with “Annabelle Comes Home” (Warner Bros.), the lame third installment in the saga of the titular figurine fatale.
Franchise veteran Gary Dauberman penned and helms a mostly gore-free further spinoff of the “Conjuring” series and gives a veneer of Catholicism to the proceedings. Yet some questionable notions lie embedded beneath that overlay, as when dialogue indicates that Annabelle is out to steal a human soul.
By the time that theory crops up, though, the audience’s attention may long since have wandered away from what’s unfolding on screen.
Set in the early 1970s, the film opens with Annabelle being safely locked away in the home of real-life do-it-yourself demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren. She joins a variety of other possessed items, ranging from a suit of Samurai armor to a television set, in a secured room that serves as a sort of cellblock for the satanic. A priest is on hand to provide extra protection by way of a blessing.
All well and good. But flash-forward a year and the Warrens have to go out of town (for what purpose, exactly, we’re not told). So they leave their 10-year-old daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), in the care of her teen baby sitter, Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman).
While neither of them is inclined to mess with Mom and Dad’s museum of the macabre, the same cannot be said for Mary Ellen’s pal Daniela (Katie Sarife). Anxious to communicate with her recently deceased father — for whose death in a car accident she blames herself, having been at the wheel — Daniela unwittingly unleashes Annabelle, with predictable results. The upshot, though, will frighten only the skittish.
Lest all the terror be directed at the trio of females, Mary Ellen’s shy would-be boyfriend, Bob (Michael Cimino), ill-advisedly turns up just in time to be hunted by a werewolf. Bob’s service as the equipment manager of his high school’s basketball team has acquired him the nickname “Bob’s Got Balls,” from which punning moniker Dauberman’s script repeatedly attempts to wring laughs.
Dubious humor aside, there’s not much to object to in the movie, but neither is there much to like. So discerning viewers may not choose to be in attendance as this lassie comes home.
The film contains occult themes, some stylized violence with minimal blood, a couple of gruesome images, much anatomical wordplay, at least one use of rough language and several crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.